Edinburgh Festivals 2014: three stage productions from New Zealand
Highlights include Arthur Meek’s On the Upside Down of the World and Lemi Ponifasio's I AM
This article is from 2014.
In the popular view of the northern hemisphere – and indeed, much of the country’s neighbours – New Zealand is a remote idyll populated by hobbits and sheep where not very much ever happens. Yet history tells us that a country so young is unlikely to be a country without its social issues to explore, as the land’s changes are all relatively fresh in the memory and the integration of its peoples is an ongoing process.
Presented as an exercise in celebrating the Commonwealth (in fact, a high proportion of New Zealanders are the descendants of Scots settlers over the generations), the ‘NZ at Edinburgh’ showcase series this year brings a range of theatre shows which scratch beneath the surface of what we imagine New Zealand to be. From a British perspective, playwright Arthur Meek’s On the Upside Down of the World traces the tempestuous history of our own colonisation of the country, a historical one-woman show which adapts the memoirs of Lady Ann Martin, wife of the country’s first Chief Justice and a pioneer of race relations in the mid-19th century.
Tales of migration to NZ don’t just emerge from this remote perspective. More than one show in this series looks at the communities of Pacific Islanders who have settled in the country, but perhaps the most interesting – certainly the most attention-grabbing – might emerge in Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot, a hard-edged comedy about responses to the country’s Marriage Equality Bill set amidst the Pacific Island community. Highest-profile of all, meanwhile, will be the return of Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio after his acclaimed Edinburgh International Festival shows in 2010, with the EIF’s I AM a physical meditation on World War I and New Zealand’s role in it.
On the Upside Down of the World, Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, 2–25 Aug (not 11), 1.15pm, £11 (£10). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £8.
Black Faggot, Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, 2–25 Aug (not 11), 5.30pm, £12.50 (£11.50). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £7.
I AM, Playhouse, 473 2000, 16 & 17 Aug, £10–£32.